Updated: Aug 1, 2021
New Zealand will surprise you with its vast biking experiences. Whether you are up to buying a new bicycle or you already have one and want to explore, this guide is for you. I will explain in the next sections what you can do with your bike and what kinds of bikes are available in New Zealand.
First, if you are going to bike on New Zealand streets, you will need proper equipment for you to bike. These include wearing a helmet and a bright color T-shirt.
Apart from legal gear, you may also consider biking shorts, gloves, pants, and shoes. The gear should help you stay warm and safe. The gloves will give you a firm grip on the handlebar and the proper shoes will cling to pedals.
At night you should place street light reflectors on the spokes of the wheels. You should also place a headlight or a simple lamp on the front of the bike. Having a bell also helps at night and during the day. You may use it to let pedestrians know that you are approaching and about to pass them by.
Biking gloves are there for you to grip the handlebars. They also help protect your hands from cold, which is common among mountain bikers. Before you go biking make sure to pump up the tires if they are not inflated. You can use a bicycle pump attached to the down tube of the bike.
Purchasing a Bike
About buying a new bicycle, there are a few options for you. You may consider purchasing a brand new bike. Shops like Lewis & Co - Bikes & Stuff in Auckland or Bicycle Junction in Wellington will have new bikes on offer. Or you may consider buying a secondhand bike on Trademe.
The price for a brand new bike may range from $800 to several thousand dollars. The secondhand option bikes are usually priced at around 200-500$ for an ordinary bike.
The last time I was purchasing a mountain bike it cost me $300. The high-end brand new models cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Mountain Bike vs Road Bike
Now that you know the price ranges of the bikes, the next step is to consider the type of bike. There exist Road bikes, Mountain bikes, trekking bikes, and hybrid bikes. There can be male and female bikes. You must also think about gears on the bike.
The difference between road bikes and mountain bikes is in the tires used and the structure of the bike. Road bikes have narrower tires and specialized handlebars. You can rest lying down on the bike's handles. Mountainous bikes have wider tires and wide, flat handlebars. This provides better control in maneuvering the rough terrain.
Another difference is that mountainous bikes have suspension tubes. These tubes amortize bumps and jumps of the bike on uneven surfaces. Road bikes lack those features. Both road and mountainous bikes have front and rear brakes, brake levers, saddle, and rim.
Road bikes are good for long-distance roads. Mountain bikes are good for mountainous terrains.
I prefer mountain bikes since you can use them on both street roads and hills. They also allow you to jump over the curbs by amortizing the back of the bicycle with suspension.
The specialized hybrid bikes are variations of mountainous and road bikes. They blend characteristics from both types of bikes.
The track bike has only one gear, no brakes. You use them in sports competitions such as the Olympics. Of course, you have two wheels, a saddle, and handlebars.
Male vs Female Bikes
Female bikes tend to have a lower top tube to allow them to climb up and jump off the bike. On the image below the top tube of the frame is low so the bike is more likely to be a female bike.
Male bikes have a bigger frame and straight or almost straight upper tube of the frame. This is so because boys can come off the saddle by leaning on one side and lifting one of the legs over the frame.
Simple bikes have no gear level selectors but most modern bikes feature up to 3*7-speed levels. Gear selection allows you to trade between the pedaling power (the ease at which pedaling happens) and the rate at which pedaling occurs.
On the image below are the difference between a bike without gear selection control (on the left) and the one with gear selection control (on the right)
The bike with gear selection control has a derailleur and rear cassette sprockets. The number of gears correlates with the number of sprockets at the rear and the number of chainrings at the front. A triple chainring set-up with a 10-speed rear cassette is a 30-speed bicycle.
The gears help maintain a comfortable pedaling speed. High gear is appropriate for high speeds or downhill motion. You achieve the highest gear by combining the largest front chainring with the smallest rear sprocket.
Combining the smallest front chainring with the largest back sprocket gives the lowest possible gear. This helps with pedals spinning while riding uphill.
In the still position, lower gears help to speed up. At fast speeds, higher gears help to accumulate speed and maintain the rate at which the wheels spin.
To choose the best saddle height, stretch both legs until they are almost straight. The pedal should be at its lowest height. There should remain some angle between the calf and thigh. The angle helps prevent significant efforts to stretch a leg every time a pedal comes down in height.
You might need to experiment with different saddle positions. As the perfect angle is a subjective question.
I like to set my saddle so I could transition between standing and sitting without much effort on my legs.
Biking Tracks and Trails
So far the main theme of the article has been how to configure your bicycle for biking in New Zealand. Now is the time to figure out where to go for cycling. In New Zealand it is simple, you need to find a cycling track near you and then you can follow it up to the end. There are some options to find a good trail:
AKL Paths (aucklandcouncil.govt.nz) - contains all the Auckland cycleways. You can go to the map of cycling paths - Interactive Map (aucklandcouncil.govt.nz). There you will find one near you. Be mindful as not all paths might have a cycling lane.
New Zealand Cycling Map | Ngā Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trails (nzcycletrail.com) - This map covers all cycling paths. The map only displays paths where cycling lanes are present.
Maps & rides (at.govt.nz) - This map includes Auckland cycleways such as on West, North, South Auckland, and City Centre.
Also do not forget to check Tips on How to Enjoy Your Stay in New Zealand - New Zealand Nature (nznature.net). It mentions a place for cycling. It also gives some tips on where to search for biking and cycling paths and tracks.
This article presented several aspects of biking in New Zealand to help you get started. We considered how to choose a bike, what to look for when purchasing a bike, and where to find locations for biking. All in all, I can say New Zealand is the number one country that is good for both cycling road quality and availability.